When Gareth Bale finally competes his move from Tottenham to Spanish giants Real Madrid, he will join the likes of Michael Owen, David Beckham, Paul Lambert, Ray Wilkins, Greame Souness, Gary Lineker etc in the list of British players who have moved abroad.
While normally it is unusual to see British players move around Europe, it’s sometimes even less usual to see them succeed.
The players name above are all people who have made a name for themselves in Europe, but here is a list of five British players who perhaps left a bigger mark in the continent that the rest.
Steve McManaman: Real Madrid
Steve McManaman may be remember in some circles as being part of Liverpool’s “Spice Boys” that lost the 1996 FA Cup Final to Manchester United in “style”, but the English winger will be mainly remembered as a wing wizard during his days at Anfield.
After eight years of tormenting defences in the Premier League, Real Madrid came knocking to make McManaman part of a team that would later become known as “Los Galaticos”.
During his time at the club McManaman won two La Liga titles and two Champions League titles. His finest hour for he club coming in the 2000 Champions League final where he scored a spectacular volley in a 3-0 win over Spanish rivals Valencia.
Gradually he saw his playing time decrease, and with the arrival of fellow countryman David Beckham, McManaman’s time was well and truly up and he headed back to England to join Manchester City.
McManaman’s good humour and friendliness helped him to become a cult hero during his time at the Bernabau.
Kevin Keegan: Hamburg
Kevin Keegan is still remembered fondly by Liverpool fans as one of their greatest ever players, but perhaps the peak of his career as a footballer came in his three seasons at Hamburg.
Keegan arrived in the Bundesliga being dubbed as the “saviour” of Hamburg – a prophecy that came true.
His first few months at the club didn’t go to plan, but after he had settled in he started to excel in German. Although Hamburg finished 10th in the league, Keegan won the European Footballer of the Year for his performances.
In his second season things started to go better for the club as the finished the season top of the Bundesliga and for the second season in a row Kevin Keegan was voted the European Footballer of the Year.
His final season was a year of second best for Hamburg finished runners up to Bayern Munich in the League and runners up to English side Nottingham Forest in the European Cup.
In the summer of 1980 Keegan returned to English football to play for Southampton.
Chris Waddle: Olympique de Marseille
In 1989, England midfielder Chris Waddle jumped ship from English football to over to France to leave his mark on the continent.
During Waddle’s spell with Marseille he was part of a successful side that won three consecutive league titles in his three years at the club.
A lot of England fans will recall Waddle’s penalty miss in the 1990 World Cup Semi Final penalty shoot-out against West Germany. The following year Waddle was on the losing side of another penalty shoot-out for Marseille in the final of the 1992 European Cup against Red Star Belgrade – this time, however, Waddle wasn’t one of the penalty takers.
Chris Waddle’s move from Tottenham to Marseille for a fee of £4.5 million was at the time the third highest transfer fee paid for a footballer. Today we’re talking about a potential £86 million deal for Gareth Bale to leave Tottenham for Madrid. Scary.
David Platt: Bari, Juventus and Sampdoria.
David Platt moved from Aston Villa to Bari in the Serie A in 1991 for £5.5 million. Platt impressed in his first season in Serie A scoring 11 goals in 29 games, but unfortunately Bari were relegated from the top division.
Roberto Mancini, then captain of Sampdoria, had been impressed with Platt’s performances and was eager to see the Englishman join him at Sampdoria, but it was Juventus that moved fastest and Platt completed his £6.5 million move to the Turin side.
Platt found life more difficult at Juve, with a place on the starting line up hard to come by. Although he didn’t feature in the 1993 Uefa Cup victory he did receive a medal for the club’s success.
As soon as the season was over Mancini’s Sampdoria were back on his trail, this time getting their man for £5.2 million.
Platt stayed at Sampdoria for two season and helped them to win the 1994 Coppa Italia. After four seasons in Italy, Platt returned to England to play for Arsenal.
John Charles: Juventus
Big John Charles made his move to the continent from Leeds United to Juventues for a then British record fee of £65,000 in 1957. That is less than half of a weeks wage for some of the top footballers in the world nowadays.
In his first season with the Turin side he finished as the top scorer in the league after firing in 28 goals; he was also voted the club’s player of the season.
'Il Gigante Buono’ (The Gentle Giant) finished his five year spell in Italy winning three Serie A titles and two Coppia Italia titles.
On a person level he came third in the European Footballer of the Year award in 1959. In 1997 the Juventus fans voted him as their greatest ever foreign footballer.
But it doesn’t end there. His admiration in Italy didn’t just come from Juventus fans, the big man was voted as the greatest ever foreign player to play in the Serie A over the likes of Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. And in 2001 Charles became the first non-Italian player to be listed in the Azzuri Hall of Fame.
John Charles has definitely been the one player over any other British player to make his mark in the mainland.
Feel free to mention anyone you may have put in the top five if you were making the list yourselves.
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